Island Life by David Slack

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Island Life: Just Say No

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  • Idiot Savant,

    What Are the Effects of Setchell Harassment?
    The effects of Setchell harassment could include the following:

    Emotional Effects: extreme anger

    Well, I'm definitely getting that, and I haven't even been Satchelly harassed.

    This threatens the whole idea of a politically neutral public service, appointed and advanced on merit rather than political loyalty. And indirectly, it threatens the quality of that public service and its ability to give free and frank policy advice to and effectively serve the government of the day. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, that should be regarded as a serious threat.

    Then there's the idea of victimising someone based not on their activities, but those of their partner. That makes me extremely angry. Because obviously, people have no intellectual independence - or professionalism.

    As is clear from its code of conduct, the public service expects its staff to behave professionally and with integrity. It would be nice if those responsible for those values - the SSC and chief executives - lived up to them for a change.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1661 posts Report Reply

  • reece palmer,

    Where Does Setchell Harassment Happen?

    Setchell Harassment can happen on school camps when the setchell harasser bursts in on underage girls in various states of undress repeatedly.

    the terraces • Since Nov 2006 • 298 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Actually, VUW's Jonathan Boston has just made a vigorous and reasonably convincing case on Checkpoint that there was a potential conflict of interest here that did warrant consultation. That did occur to me: those are two very senior comms jobs likely to be in political conflict (Boston quite frankly declared that it would have been inappropriate in his view).

    But Ms Setchell did declare the potential conflict before she was hired. It would seem that that would have been the time to discuss it, not afterwards. And DBP, well ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    The one thing that I find very hard to believe in all of this is that the HR/acting Comm's Manager never passed on Setchell's relationship with Kevin Taylor to the interview panel.

    It's the first thing I would have done and, for the life of me, I can't comprehend why it apparently did not happen.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    That did occur to me: those are two very senior comms jobs likely to be in political conflict (Boston quite frankly declared that it would have been inappropriate in his view).

    Hum... I must catch that when it goes live on the RNZ website, but on the basis of your precis, I think Professor Boston has somewhat missed the point - and I'd like to think Victoria University would just hang up on any staffer from the Education Minister's office who wanted to engage in a little 'consultation' on new appointments to the School of Government, or the Institute of Policy Studies where he's the deputy director. (And looking at its website, I'd suggest the IPS's ongoing research program on things like climate change policy could be highly politically contentious.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    It's not pretty and I have to say for the first time I have had doubts about Clark's integrity.

    DBP should be gone but he'll stay because Labour has such a slender hold on power. They tippy-toed around Phillip Field for quite some time for the same reason. And then had the nerve to argue that was some sort of high-minded adherence to natural justice.

    I'd be inclined to right this off as cock-up rather than conspiracy but only if someone took some responsibility and Clark actually took this seriously.

    Helen Clark of all people should have been a little more astute when it comes to partners and their relationship to government

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell,

    Why should DBP be gone, Neil?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    Why wasn't the whole thing made confidential & avoid the media ruckus?
    Or am I missing the bleedsing obvious as to whom her hubby is?

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Why wasn't the whole thing made confidential & avoid the media ruckus?

    Not quite sure what you mean here, Michael, because Setchell herself isn't talking - and I think it's reasonable to suspect there's a cheque with a gagging clause attached. But since when was the executive and civil service beyond scrutiny or criticism?

    I'd also suggest any halfway competent Press Gallery hack, seeing the senior communications manager for the MoE leave after three days would start thinking "there's a story here..."

    Why should DBP be gone, Neil?

    To be quite cynical, John, I think DBP is going to be goneburger for the one unforgivable political sin: A lousy rate of return on the expenditure of political capital. And if he's shown over the days and weeks to have been *cough* economical with the veritas (as Churchill put it) then his position is untenable. Esprit de corps is one thing; but Clark's not going to keep someone in the Cabinet who makes her - or the Government - look like dupes.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The Boston interview from Checkpoint is here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Benson Pope was just on Morning Report, sounding sullen and resentful: his "none of your business either" parting shot at Sean Plunket was pretty dumb.

    But I think Joanne Black is a bit over the top in claiming: "It is unnerving to learn that simply on the basis of my husband’s occupation, I might be barred from holding many (or any) of the country’s 190,000 public service jobs."

    Setchell was offered (and was well within her rights to refuse) another public service job, and seems to have been an OSH and DOL spokesperson without incident.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Thanks, Russell (memo to self: scroll button is your friend), and it is an interesting listen. And I'd just like to issue a clarification - my first comment could be reasonably read as a catty drive-by on Jonathan Boston's integrity. I've been disagreeing with the man for many years, but I've no reason to question his academic and professional ethics, and I apologise unreservedly if any such inference was taken.

    But I do stand by the substance of my original comment - academia is full of potential conflicts of interest. I guess the most obvious is that Peter Davis didn't put his (distinguished) academic career on hold when his wife entered Parliament, let alone when she became Health Minister and, nine years later, Prime Minister. The expectation is that Clark and Davis conform to the ethical norms of their respective professions - and does anyone really want to suggest they spend what little private time they have together on professional 'pillow talk' and accidentally on purpose leaking confidential papers?

    Ditto for Annette King and Ray Lind. Putting aside the whole Hawkes Bay DHB fiasco, Ray held a number of senior management positions in Wellington City Council while his wife was the MP for Rongotai. On the partisan tip, believe you me nothing would have made me happier than to find evidence that those two weren't keeping a rigid line between their professional and private lives. Didn't happen though.

    In the end, I'm sure Victoria University - like the Wellington City Council or the public service - has processes to deal with legitimate concerns over professional misconduct. And the State Services Commission - and the more *cough* paranoid members of the executive branch - are just going to have to get used to the idea that the world no longer looks like an episode of Father Knows Best, if it ever really did. It certainly isn't The Stepford Wives.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    But I think Joanne Black is a bit over the top in claiming: "It is unnerving to learn that simply on the basis of my husband’s occupation, I might be barred from holding many (or any) of the country’s 190,000 public service jobs."

    I agree with you, but it's sure understandable considering the amount of snide (and distasteful) chipping she and Jane Clifton get because of who they happen to be in relationships with - which, naturally, makes them Tory Cylon sleeper agents programmed to destroy The Listener from within. Why do I get left out of all the really good evil plams? :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    But I do stand by the substance of my original comment - academia is full of potential conflicts of interest. I guess the most obvious is that Peter Davis didn't put his (distinguished) academic career on hold when his wife entered Parliament, let alone when she became Health Minister and, nine years later, Prime Minister. The expectation is that Clark and Davis conform to the ethical norms of their respective professions - and does anyone really want to suggest they spend what little private time they have together on professional 'pillow talk' and accidentally on purpose leaking confidential papers?

    Actually, the Clark-Davis thing might be apposite in another way. In 2001, Wyatt Creech and National succeeded in convincing the media that Davis had "won a $750,000 grant", perhaps through his wife's influence. Reality: in a peer-reviewed process, he had been granted a $750,000 budget for a research project, and in fact was never going to get a cent more than his existing salary.

    Creech was completely out of order. But then Trevor Mallard retaliated with baseless suggestions about the properness of the involvement of the wives of Bill English and Max Bradford and the sister of Jenny Shipley in the business of the last government. And then it got really silly.

    Covered by me, here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    Your partner who works in a job with a potential conflict of interest might or might not disregard their obligations and share a confidence. So might the friend you drink with on Friday nights. So might your acquaintance from a cycling club.

    I think “who does this person know?” is not nearly as good a test as: “does this person look as though they will respect their obligation not to disclose information?”

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Russell:

    Fair point, and I certainly won't defend what is very far from Wyatt's finest moment. But I'm confident Clark would (quite justifiably) go nuclear if John Key blithely opined at a press conference her husband should never have been appointed to this post, because of a potential conflict of interest (never mind how it's managed), and the always politically contentious nature of public health policy. I can certainly think of a few Auckland Uni. academics who would have a short, sharp and unprintable response to any slur on their institution's academic integrity and political independence.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Why should DBP be gone, Neil?

    Ministerial responsibility. If Labour had reacted less defensively then I'd give them the benefit of the doubt but they just look peeved that anyone should disagree with their judgement.

    I'd probably be easily convinced that Setchell's appointment was inappropriate but the way Labour has gone about this is particularly shoddy, especially DBP's plausible deniability defence. He knew, he just didn't know Setchell's name - not quite, he wasn't told Setchell's name and didn't ask because he didn't have to.

    It's completely understandable that Labour would not want Setchell in that job the idea of an independent public service is to prevent political parties from doing what they find is to their advantage and getting rid of people thought to be a political threat should be done upfront rather than how Labour has gone about this.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Kennedy,

    Why should DBP be gone

    Because he is accountable (Oh I forgot !)

    Ok, he is a liability

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 218 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    the world no longer looks like an episode of Father Knows Best, if it ever really did. It certainly isn't The Stepford Wives.

    if we're talking tv, the world actually looks like this

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • John Morrison,

    I agree with you, but it's sure understandable considering the amount of snide (and distasteful) chipping she and Jane Clifton get because of who they happen to be in relationships with

    The National Party's take on current issues is spoken too often by the Listener these days. The first I heard of the Setchell issue was in that mag even after reading all of the big newspapers daily, and considering Jane's last effort on the innocence of Ryall, well.... it didn't even deal with any facts.

    DBP's woeful performance aside, I contend it would be hard to separate my professionalism from my intimate's influence from the other pillow.

    Cromwell • Since Nov 2006 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I think “who does this person know?” is not nearly as good a test as: “does this person look as though they will respect their obligation not to disclose information?”

    Well, certainly. At the risk of sounding like a total jerk-off, the blog/media scene in this country isn't quite incestuous - but few people in the media stay in the same job for life, or are celibate recluses. (For which the wimmins mags and gossip columns are eternally grateful, I'm sure.) If I was starting a newspaper or magazine, and disqualified everyone who had some kind of relationship with staff on a competitor that constituted a potential conflict of interest it would be pretty hard to find anyone worth the having. :)

    But I digress... As Russell pointed out, Setchelll has apparently worked for OSH and the Department of Labour (hardly political dead zones) without incident - or any suggestion that she was leaking to her partner, who was a reporter for the Herald before he jumped the fence to work for Key. Being in a relationship with a journalist isn't an unacceptable conflict of interest; but being involved with the Leader of the Opposition's press secretary is?

    Gee, any hack worth his (or her) salt would be insulted! :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12040 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Stevens,

    The entire thing has been handled very badly and DBP comes out of it looking less than clean, but I am not sure if it is a hanging offence.

    I do feel sorry ofr Ms Setchell (and her partner).

    NZ is tiny, especially when you get into these circles. There are aqlways going to be potential conflicts, but the people involved are usually very good at managing them.

    Seems to me more like Hurring had a stupid rush of blood and acted without thinking.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 229 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Yes, but.

    There are only 49 government MPs to choose ministers from, and 28 actual ministers (including 2 from minority parties). With, I would guess, several hundred high level public servants, this doesn't provide much political control - and we do expect the government to be accountable for the execution of its policies.

    You can understand a desire to have the core team in departments being at least in part "one of us" (to quote Mrs Thatcher).

    I'd suggest that without going down the US route of making all senior PS political appointees, we would do well to have a layer of a few hundred people on "single parliament" contracts.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4467 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    On the journalism front, I've said before that I don't really like the pseudo-impartiality thing in NZ journalism. I'd rather that people came out as left- or right- wing than tried to claim to be an impartial analyst.

    Notwithstanding who Joanna Black and Jane Clifton are married to, I'd consider them to be basically tories, just from the tone of their writing. There's nothing wrong with the Listener's owners deciding to transition it from a left-leaning to a right-leaning magazine and employing people accordingly - I just wish they'd be upfront about it.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4467 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    I'd suggest that without going down the US route of making all senior PS political appointees, we would do well to have a layer of a few hundred people on "single parliament" contracts.

    We already have such people. They're called MPs.

    But seriously, why would we want to? We worked very hard to rid ourselves of the corruption and mediocrity inherant in a politicised public service back in the early C20th, and I really don't want to go back there.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1661 posts Report Reply

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